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"Tons of undigested vitamins"

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 
Today, I decided to repeat an experiment I did some years ago, testing to see whether vitamins
really dissolve. Many of you will have seen the claims from vitamin purveyors that sewer workers in
some city (lately, it's usually been Tacoma, Washington) must frequently clean out tons of
undigested vitamin pills that are clogging the filters at the treatment plant.

This morning, I took five different supplements (a magnesium caplet, a selenium tablet, a vitamin C
tablet, a B-complex caplet, a vitamin E gel) and dropped them into a glass of water. I didn't stir
the water, and none of the tablets were touching each other. I then let the glass sit undisturbed
for 80 minutes and checked the results.

All of these were generic products of the CVS pharmacy chain (a large US chain). Nothing expensive.

The magnesium caplet was the most spectacular -- it started to come apart within a few seconds and
looked like a slow-motion explosion. The others were not so dramatic, but after 80 minutes, the
selenium and the B complex had both disintegrated, and the vitamin E gel had burst. The vitamin C
tablet was looking a bit fuzzy, but had not yet come apart. Four hours later, however, it too had
disintegrated.

Note that in your stomach, the environment is far more active and hostile (acid, churning) than in a
still glass of water.

I think we may safely assume that the "clogged filter" stories of the vitamin purveyors are hogwash.

But you might want to try this yourself, just for fun. Also, it might make a good science fair
experiment for your kids -- they could try a whole bunch of different brands and maybe different
types of products
(e.g. ibuprofen.)

-- David Wright :: alphabeta at prodigy.net These are my opinions only, but they're almost always
correct. "If I have not seen as far as others, it is because giants were standing on my
shoulders." (Hal Abelson, MIT)
post #2 of 4

Re: "Tons of undigested vitamins"

"David Wright" <wright@clam.prodigy.net> wrote in message
news:lUIEb.37888$OM1.13029@newssvr32.news.prodigy.com...
>
> Today, I decided to repeat an experiment I did some years ago, testing to see whether vitamins
> really dissolve. Many of you will have seen the claims from vitamin purveyors that sewer workers
> in some city (lately, it's usually been Tacoma, Washington) must frequently clean out tons of
> undigested vitamin pills that are clogging the filters at the treatment plant.
>
> This morning, I took five different supplements (a magnesium caplet, a selenium tablet, a vitamin
> C tablet, a B-complex caplet, a vitamin E gel) and dropped them into a glass of water. I didn't
> stir the water, and none of the tablets were touching each other. I then let the glass sit
> undisturbed for 80 minutes and checked the results.
>
> All of these were generic products of the CVS pharmacy chain (a large US chain). Nothing
> expensive.
>
> The magnesium caplet was the most spectacular -- it started to come apart within a few seconds and
> looked like a slow-motion explosion. The others were not so dramatic, but after 80 minutes, the
> selenium and the B complex had both disintegrated, and the vitamin E gel had burst. The vitamin C
> tablet was looking a bit fuzzy, but had not yet come apart. Four hours later, however, it too had
> disintegrated.
>
> Note that in your stomach, the environment is far more active and hostile (acid, churning) than in
> a still glass of water.
>
> I think we may safely assume that the "clogged filter" stories of the vitamin purveyors are
> hogwash.
>
> But you might want to try this yourself, just for fun. Also, it might make a good science fair
> experiment for your kids -- they could try a whole bunch of different brands and maybe different
> types of products
> (e.g. ibuprofen.)

I suspect the technology of such products has improved greatly since it was quite common to find
intact tablets in the intestines on plain abdominal fil ms, and even in the colon on endoscopy.
Potassium chloride tablets were a notorious offender.

Peter Moran
post #3 of 4

Re: "Tons of undigested vitamins"

A few years back, in a Consumers Report article on vitamins & supplements, they suggested dropping
such pills into a glass of vinegar to test how quickly/if they dissolve. I've done it with our
favorite cheap brand of aspirin & it disintegrated quite quickly.

A lady on another (non-health, but we got on the subject of vitamins) forum said that when she
empties her colostomy bag, she's never seen an intact vitamin pill yet & mentioned that she can only
afford the cheapest vitamins.
post #4 of 4

Re: "Tons of undigested vitamins"

This is always a good test of whether a pill will dissolve. It doesn't, however, test the
bioavailability, quality, or potency of the vitamin. That's a good reason why it is best to buy from
a company with a good track record and that uses Good Manufacturing Practices as established by the
National Nutritional Foods Association (NNFA) or another private standards organization. There are
too many fly-by-night operations out there putting out utter crap and slapping a cheap price on it.

Al.

"David Wright" <wright@clam.prodigy.net> wrote in message
news:lUIEb.37888$OM1.13029@newssvr32.news.prodigy.com...
>
> Today, I decided to repeat an experiment I did some years ago, testing to see whether vitamins
> really dissolve. Many of you will have seen the claims from vitamin purveyors that sewer workers
> in some city (lately, it's usually been Tacoma, Washington) must frequently clean out tons of
> undigested vitamin pills that are clogging the filters at the treatment plant.
>
> This morning, I took five different supplements (a magnesium caplet, a selenium tablet, a vitamin
> C tablet, a B-complex caplet, a vitamin E gel) and dropped them into a glass of water. I didn't
> stir the water, and none of the tablets were touching each other. I then let the glass sit
> undisturbed for 80 minutes and checked the results.
>
> All of these were generic products of the CVS pharmacy chain (a large US chain). Nothing
> expensive.
>
> The magnesium caplet was the most spectacular -- it started to come apart within a few seconds and
> looked like a slow-motion explosion. The others were not so dramatic, but after 80 minutes, the
> selenium and the B complex had both disintegrated, and the vitamin E gel had burst. The vitamin C
> tablet was looking a bit fuzzy, but had not yet come apart. Four hours later, however, it too had
> disintegrated.
>
> Note that in your stomach, the environment is far more active and hostile (acid, churning) than in
> a still glass of water.
>
> I think we may safely assume that the "clogged filter" stories of the vitamin purveyors are
> hogwash.
>
> But you might want to try this yourself, just for fun. Also, it might make a good science fair
> experiment for your kids -- they could try a whole bunch of different brands and maybe different
> types of products
> (e.g. ibuprofen.)
>
> -- David Wright :: alphabeta at prodigy.net These are my opinions only, but they're almost
> always correct. "If I have not seen as far as others, it is because giants were standing on my
> shoulders." (Hal Abelson, MIT)
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